Collage, enamel, plastic and cosmetics on lithographed paper
Eric Franck, London & Geneva
Waddington Galleries Ltd., London
Private Collection, Sweden
Wetterling Thoreden Gallery, Gothenburg
London, Tate Gallery, Richard Hamilton, 1970, no. 167, illustrated
New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Richard Hamilton, 1973, p. 77, no. 131, illustrated in colour
Bielefeld, Kunsthalle; Tübingen, Kunsthalle; Göttingen, Kunstverein, Richard Hamilton Studies – Studien 1937-1977, 1978, p. 171, no. 131, illustrated
London, Tate Gallery; Dublin, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Richard Hamilton, 1992-1993, p. 112, no. 66, illustrated in colour
Barcelona, MACBA; Cologne, Museum Ludwig, Richard Hamilton Retrospective, Paintings and Drawings 1937-2002, 2002, p. 59, no. 103, illustrated in colour
Richard Hamilton is widely recognised as the artist who coined the term 'Pop' art, and one of the definitive painters of ‘modern’ life. Central to his position of importance and influence was the iconic series of Fashion Plates or Cosmetic Studies, which witnessed a reassessment of the boundaries separating art and popular culture. The increasing emphasis on image during the 1960s saw the proliferation of popular fashion and cosmetics magazines, and in the Fashion Plate series, Hamilton combines the fine-artist’s approach with the materials and forms of mass, commercial culture.
The present work is one of the strongest examples from the series in which various elements from other plates find a harmonious balance. Subsequently it combines subtle pockets of meaning found in the other plates whilst carving out its own distinctive identity. The composition’s striking theatricality is enhanced by the flatness of the lithographed background, which in turn accentuates the relationships between the separate collaged elements and enables them to be read as a continuous and timeless system. Make up comparisons are often made through a sharp dividing line to illustrate the 'before and after' and Hamilton emphasises this through the split personaity here. While masking the personality of specific models through the cosmetic facade, a glimmer Jean Shrimpton shines through the masked face on the left.
Executed in 1969, Hamilton’s Fashion-Plate series is regarded as one of the artist’s most influential and significant creations from the 1960s. Consisting of twelve unique studies which were initially conceived and viewed as an integrated group, the present work marks the progressive culmination of the earlier plates. Exhibited as the centrepiece of Hamilton’s first Tate Gallery retrospective in 1970, when viewed together as a group, the Fashion Plates reveal the artist’s quasi-scientific approach and his commitment to the full development of an idea. Hamilton’s progression of an idea – in this case exploring the bizarre and fragmented world of fashion shoots and magazines – “has always been that of the locksmith, not that of the dynamiter.” (John Russell in Exhibition Catalogue, New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Richard Hamilton, 1973, p. 11)
The Fashion Plates afford a carefully worked fusion of the surface emotions and expressions projected by models, with the magazines’ obsessive drive for colour and stylistic innovation. The present work is one of the most complete and effective from the series and provides a superlative example of Hamilton’s fascination with the immediate juxtaposition of contrasting languages, mediums and forms. The mutation of the human image through interposed devices is a theme also pivotal to Hamilton’s oeuvre, and can be found in such iconic works as What is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing? (1956), and My Marilyn (1956).
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